The world anxiously waits for the International Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Hague to make its long-overdue merits ruling on the Philippine arbitration case. A favorable Philippine ruling is expected in the coming months and could invite further, and potentially coordinated, legal challenges against China from the other claimants of Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei. If so, do these possible challenges portend another and more enduring shift in regional attitudes toward the aspiring preeminent power in the Indo-Asia-Pacific? Will the region’s countries grow weary of Beijing’s assertiveness and unilateralism in the South China Sea (SCS)? Will they be emboldened by the ruling to finally unite and put collective pressures on China to stop its land reclamation and militarization activities, curb its maritime harassment of civilian ships, and come in good faith to the multilateral negotiating table for a peaceful and lasting resolution of the competing maritime sovereignty claims? And last, what can and should the United States do about it?
A South China Sea Game Changer?
A ruling is about to come down from the Hague on the simmering sovereignty dispute between the Philippines and China; all regional players have a stake in the outcome.
By Captain Tuan Pham, U.S. Navy